New Iowa City high school, boundary changes

July 1, 2009

By Gregg Hennigan

IOWA CITY – Another high school will be built in the Iowa City school district – sometime.

And high school boundaries may be changing.

That much the school board made clear at a work session Tuesday night. 

School board members saying they are committed to opening a third comprehensive high school was not exactly a huge surprise. I used the word “recommitted” in the Gazette story.

The need for a new high school was a key selling point by school officials during the school infrastructure local-option sales tax two years ago. And the district already is setting aside $3.2 million of that money each year for its construction.

A couple of school board members said last night that they thought opening another high school already was a stated goal by the board.

“Frankly, I thought we did, a long time ago,” say we were headed in that direction, Tim Krumm said.

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Iowa City Council to get chicken petition

June 30, 2009

By Gregg Hennigan

IOWA CITY – If the word “chicken” is directed at the City Council at tonight’s meeting, it probably won’t be an insult.

After three months of collecting signatures, organizers plan to submit a petition asking that people be allowed to keep chickens in residential areas. As of a couple of weeks ago, several hundred people had signed the petition.

Supporters of backyard chickens – which, along with urban chickens, is what the movement often is called – want city law to be changed to allow people to keep up to five hens, but no roosters, at their homes.

Click here for more background.

I’ll be covering the school board meeting tonight, but we’ll have a reporter check in on whether the petition is turned in.

The issue should not be discussed in any detail because it is not on the council’s agenda. Organizers plan to submit the petition during the public comment portion of the meeting.

City staff is collecting information on the matter for the council’s consideration, possibly later this month.


Iowa City, council sued over development

June 19, 2009

IOWA CITY — The city of Iowa City and the City Council has been sued by a man who is against a proposed housing development north of Rohret Road.

In a lawsuit filed in Johnson County District Court earlier this month, Robert Hegeman, of 44 Tucson Place, contends that a development planned for the west side of town was scaled down in an effort to invalidate a protest petition filed by neighbors.

In the lawsuit, he objects to the rejection of the petition and says the city should have given formal notice and held a separate public hearing on the revised project.

A petition signed by more than 20 percent of nearby landowners was filed with the city earlier this year. It would have required a supermajority of at least six council members to approve a rezoning request.

The original proposal called for 170 lots. After the public hearing was closed, the project was downsized so that the petition had signatures from less than 20 percent of adjacent property owners, meaning only a simple majority of council members had to approve it.

The council OK’d the rezoning with a 5-2 vote in May. Click here and go to Pg. 65 for a transcript of Hegeman’s argument before the council, City Attorney Eleanor Dilke’s response and the council’s discussion.

Assistant City Attorney Sara Hektoen said in an interview that the council reduced the area to be rezoned in response to the residents’ concerns, not to circumvent the petition. Because the project was downsized, no additional property owners were affected, so the council did not need another public hearing, she said.

Hegeman, who lives near the proposed development and is representing himself, declined to comment.

Backyard chickens update

June 15, 2009

By Gregg Hennigan

IOWA CITY – The Los Angles Times has a story today on backyard chickens that includes a couple of Iowa references.

The story mentions the Iowa City petition asking the city to allow people to keep up to five hens, no roosters, in residential areas. Organizers have said they plan to submit the petition to the City Council soon.

The city is collecting information on the topic for the council’s consideration in July, according to e-mails from city staff to people interested in the issue.

Iowa City backyard chickens update

May 19, 2009

By Gregg Hennigan

IOWA CITY —  Backyard chicken advocates in Iowa City are still trying to generate support for their cause.

A petition drive was started in early April calling for a change in city law to allow residents to keep up to five hens, no roosters, in residential areas. City code currently classifies the raising of livestock as an agricultural use, which is not allowed in residential zones.

At the time the petition started, organizer Stacey Driscoll of Iowa City said she hoped to turn it in to the City Council in the coming weeks. 

On Monday, Driscoll said the plan is to submit it in late June or early July. About 700 people have signed the online and paper forms of the petition, she said.

Driscoll has created a Web site on the issue. She’s also helped organize a screening of the documentary “Mad City Chickens” at 2 p.m. June 27 at the Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center in Iowa City. She said the filmmakers are going to be there and hold a Q&A afterward.

Supporters say there is a growing national movement among people living in urban areas wanting to raise chickens. Press critic Jack Shafer of disputes that in a recent column.